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**This post describes an entirely hypothetical asteroid impact scenario, that played out during this year’s Planetary Defense Conference**

Conference wrap-up

Listen to Rüdiger Jehn, ESA’s Head of Planetary Defense as he summarises this year’s fictional impact event and why it is so important.

2019 Planetary Defense Exercise wrap-up - SoundCloud
(246 secs long, 332 plays)Play in SoundCloud

Take home messages:

Asteroid impacts are the only natural disaster we can prevent

— With good observations, we can have years – decades or even centuries – to prepare for a potential asteroid impact

— Astronomers, amateur-astronomers, space agencies and observatories are constantly monitoring our skies. ESA’s upcoming Flyeye telescope will play a vital role in the search for risky space rocks

Asteroids move in defined orbits – they are predictable! Once we’ve found an asteroid and observed it over a period, we can determine where it will be at any point in the future and therefore understand if it will ever pass close to Earth.

— ESA’s Near-Earth Object Coordination Centre (among others) is constantly determining the paths of near-Earth asteroids, and calculating their risk. All this information is publically available! Subscribe to the monthly asteroid newsletter and check out the website, here

Asteroid deflection is a reality – a global collaboration will see NASA fly their DART, ‘Double Asteroid Redirection Test’, spacecraft into the Didymoon asteroid, with the aim of altering its orbit. ESA’s Hera mission will follow up and observe the effect – a vital part of understanding the effects of a ‘kinetic impact’. Find out more, here

— Fortunately, we don’t get much practise in responding to large asteroid impacts. This means hypothetical impact scenarios are a vital tool in planning for a variety of worst case scenarios. (This year, much of the fictional asteroid 2019 PDC was deflected using multiple kinetic impactors, however the ‘head’ of this contact binary remained on a collision course with Earth, set to destroy New York. Questions about reconnaissance missions, nuclear options and evacuation and emergency preparedness became vital to the international response. See below for a day-to-day break down of what happened.)

— Find out more about ESA’s work to protect our planet here: www.esa.int/SpaceSafety

Friday 3 May: Day five

Ground-based observations, including ranging measurements by the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, have narrowed down the impact area. 2019 PDC is predicted with certainty to impact over the Central Park area in New York City – just 10 days from now.

The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency has requested daily updates from the International Asteroid Warning Network on the predicted impact location and damage estimates, in order to finalise their evacuation of residents and critical infrastructure and to prepare for any casualties and ultimately recovery efforts.

More details are coming in on the final twitter thread from ESA Operations: 

#FictionalEvent
Possible impact locations narrowed as ground-based observations over the last three months, and following radar 'ranging' measurements by the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, converged on Central Park #PDC2019 pic.twitter.com/vpazx8NsHH

— ESA Operations (@esaoperations) May 3, 2019

Thursday 2 May: Day four

3 September 2024

In response to hypothetical asteroid #2019PDC – set to impact Denver, Colorado – three ‘kinetic impactor’ missions were sent to crash into the space rock and nudge its orbit away from Earth. The missions successfully deflected its main body, however, a 50-80-metre fragment is currently still certain to collide with Earth. The new impact site is unknown, but the Eastern United States and Atlantic ocean are currently at risk.

Find out more in the fourth press release in this year’s impact scenario:

Check out the latest Twitter thread with highlights from today’s announcement:

#FictionalEvent
Earth impact is (hypothetically) certain. The exact location is not known, but the Eastern United States and Atlantic ocean are at risk. pic.twitter.com/pxri27n8aL

— ESA Operations (@esaoperations) May 2, 2019

Catch our Facebook live interview on the penultimate morning of the Planetary Defense Conference, with ESA’s Juan Luis Cano, NASA’s Kelly Fast and Romana Kofler from the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (left to right).

Wednesday 1 May: Day three

30 December 2021:

It was decided that a reconnaissance mission was necessary to understand more about fictional asteroid 2019 PDC’s orbit, size and composition. More than two years after the asteroid was detected, the reconnaissance mission has now discovered is that the 200-m asteroid is on a certain collision course with Denver, Colorado in the United States of America.

Here is the third (fictional) press release:

Follow the live updates from day three in the ESA Operations thread:

#FictionalEvent
Paul Chodas, manager of NASA's Center for Near-Earth Object Studies #CNEOS, who designed this year's scenario says:
"We have the resolve, we have a space programme, we can prevent this" pic.twitter.com/YpEumRe4co

— ESA Operations (@esaoperations) May 1, 2019

Tuesday 30 April: Day two

29 July 2019

The second press release on fictional asteroid 2019PDC is out, and it’s not looking good. Four months after asteroid #2019PDC is detected, observations now show the chance of Earth impact has increased to 1 in 10.

Difficult questions must now be asked. How do we deflect the asteroid? Perhaps it could be exploded? Or could we organise a mass evacuation of areas we think will be affected? Do we have enough information?

Models suggest the asteroid could impact anywhere within a ‘risk corridor’ going from Southern to Western Africa, across the Atlantic and up to North America.

Get live updates on the ESA Operations thread, below:

https://twitter.com/esaoperations/status/1123296770149294086

Once briefed on the latest details, participants to the Planetary Defense Conference split into groups to discuss the recommendations they will put to the “Asteroid 2019 PDC Mitigation Task Force”.

Monday 29 April: Day one

First press release on the detection of asteroid 2019 PDC, similar to what would be released should a real dangerous asteroid be discovered.

ESA’s Head of Planetary Defence, Rüdiger Jehn, responds to the worrying discovery:

“1 in 100 may not sound like a lot, but considering the damage an asteroid of this size could cause – this is something we would need to take very, very seriously.”

Paul Chodas, creator of this years impact scenario expands on the complexities of the case:

“If asteroid #2019PDC is headed straight at Earth, we won’t know for sure until the year 2020. So how do we make a decision? What do we do now?”

Further updates will be given each day of the Planetary Defense Conference – stay tuned!

Sunday 28 April: One day to go until the Planetary Defense Conference, and we talked to Rüdiger Jehn, ESA’s Head of Planetary Defence, about near-Earth asteroids, deflection methods and this year’s fictional impact scenario.

Setting the scene: Planetary Defense Conference 2019

Every two years, asteroid experts from across the globe come together to pretend an asteroid impact is imminent. During these week-long impact scenarios, participants don’t know how the situation will evolve know from one day to the next but must make plans based on the daily updates they are given.

For the first time, ESA will be live tweeting the hypothetical impact scenario from the heart of the Planetary Defense Conference (PDC) in Washington DC – so you’ll find out the ‘news’ as the experts do. What will they do? What would you do?

Scroll down for live twitter updates.

“The first step in protecting our planet is knowing what’s out there”, says Rüdiger Jehn, ESA’s Head of Planetary Defence.

“Only then, with enough warning, can we take the steps needed to prevent an asteroid strike altogether, or minimise the damage it does on the ground”.

This year’s asteroid – ‘2019 PDC’

The scene has been set for this year’s hypothetical impact scenario. Although realistic, is it is completely fictional and does NOT describe an actual asteroid impact.

— An asteroid was discovered on 26 March 2019 and has been given the name “2019 PDC” by the IAU’s Minor Planet Center.

— Initial calculations suggest the orbit of 2019 PDC will bring it within 7.5 million km of Earth’s orbit. (Or, within 0.05 AU of Earth’s orbit. One AU is the mean distance between the Sun and Earth, equal to 149 597 870.7 km).— 2019 PDC is travelling in an eccentric orbit, extending 2.94 AU at its farthest point from the Sun (in the middle of the main asteroid belt), and 0.94 AU at its closest. It completes one full orbit around the Sun every 971 days (2.66 years). See its orbit in more detail here.

— The day after 2019 PDC is discovered, ESA and NASA’s impact monitoring systems identify several future dates when the asteroid could hit Earth. Both systems agree that the asteroid is most likely to strike on 29 April 2027 – more than eight years away – with a very low probability of impact of about 1 in 50 000.

— When it was first detected, asteroid 2019 PDC was about 57 million km from Earth, equal to 0.38 Astronomical Units. It was travelling about 14 km/s, and slowly getting brighter.

— As observations continue, the likelihood of an impact in 2027 increases. Three weeks after the discovery, after observations were paused during the full Moon (and reduced visibility), the chance of impact has risen to 0.4% – that’s a chance of 1 in 250.— Very little is known about the asteroid’s physical properties. From its brightness, experts determine that the asteroid’s mean size could be anywhere from 100-300 meters.

— Asteroid #2019PDC continued to approach Earth for more than a month after discovery, reaching its closest point on 13 May. Unfortunately, the asteroid was too far away to be detected, and it is not expected to pass close to Earth until 2027 – the year of impact.

— Astronomers continued to monitor the asteroid for a month after its initial detection, which provided them with more information about the object’s trajectory, and have now discovered that the chance of impact is rapidly increasing. By 29 April 2019, (the first day of the Planetary Defence Conference), the probability of impact has risen to 1 in 100.

What’s to be done?

Follow @esaoperations on Twitter for live coverage of the conference, and find daily updates on the asteroid impact scenario here, beginning on Monday, 29 April.

Tweets by esaoperations https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

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Setting the scene: Planetary Defense Conference 2019

Every two years, asteroid experts from across the globe come together to pretend an asteroid impact is imminent. During these week-long impact scenarios, participants don’t know how the situation will evolve know from one day to the next but must make plans based on the daily updates they are given.

For the first time, ESA will be live tweeting the hypothetical impact scenario from the heart of the Planetary Defense Conference (PDC) in Washington DC – so you’ll find out the ‘news’ as the experts do. What will they do? What would you do?

“The first step in protecting our planet is knowing what’s out there”, says Rüdiger Jehn, ESA’s Head of Planetary Defence.

“Only then, with enough warning, can we take the steps needed to prevent an asteroid strike altogether, or minimise the damage it does on the ground”.

This year’s asteroid – 2019 PDC

The scene has been set for this year’s hypothetical impact scenario. Although realistic, is it is completely fictional and does NOT describe an actual asteroid impact.

— An asteroid was discovered on 26 March, 2019, and has been given the name “2019 PDC” by the Minor Planet Center.

— Initial calculations suggest the orbit of 2019 PDC will bring it within 7.5 million km of Earth’s orbit. (Or, within 0.05 AU of Earth’s orbit. One AU is the mean distance between the Sun and Earth, equal to 149 597 870.7 km).— 2019 PDC is travelling in an eccentric orbit, extending 2.94 AU at its farthest point from the Sun (in the middle of the main asteroid belt), and 0.94 AU at its closest. It completes one full orbit around the Sun every 971 days (2.66 years). See its orbit in more detail, here: https://cneos.jpl.nasa.gov/orbits/custom/pdc19.html

— The day after 2019 PDC is discovered, ESA and NASA’s impact monitoring systems identify several future dates when the asteroid could hit Earth. Both systems agree that the asteroid is most likely to strike on 29 April 2027 – more than eight years away – with a very low probability of impact of about 1 in 50 000.

— When it was first detected, asteroid 2019 PDC was about 57 million km from Earth, equal to 0.38 Astronomical Units. It was travelling about 14 km/s, and slowly getting brighter.

— As observations continue, the likelihood of an impact in 2027 increases. Three weeks after discovery, after observations were paused during the full Moon (and reduced visibility), the chance of impact has risen to 0.4 percent – a chance of 1 in 250.— Very little is known about the asteroid’s physical properties. From its brightness, experts determine that the asteroid’s mean size could be anywhere from 100-300 meters.

— Asteroid #2019PDC continued to approach Earth for more than a month after discovery, reaching its closest point on 13 May. Unfortunately, the asteroid was too far away to be detected, and it is not expected to pass close to Earth until 2027 – the year of impact.

— As astronomers continued to track #2019PDC, the chance of impact continued to rise. By April 2019, the first day of the Planetary Defence Conference, the probability of impact rises to 1%.

Follow @esaoperations on Twitter for live coverage of the conference, and find daily updates on the asteroid impact scenario here, beginning on Monday 29 April.

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The four Cluster satellites are now old enough to vote and have a driver’s license in most countries of the world, in spite of the fact that they have, in fact, been happily ‘driving’ themselves well above most countries for the last 18 years.

Today’s post was contributed by Cluster Spacecraft Operations Manager Bruno Texira de Sousa. On 11 January, the UK’s Royal Astronomical Society awarded its 2019 Group Achievement Award to the Cluster Science and Operations Teams. Follow the mission in Twitter via @esa_cluster.

Cluster images the Earth South pole (South Africa is visible between the clouds) with the VMC separation camera Credit: ESA

Beginnings

The Cluster mission got off to a very rough start in 1996, with the first quartet being destroyed along with their rocket during the unsuccessful Ariane 5 maiden flight from Kourou, in French Guiana. After being rebuilt and re-launched, in the summer of 2000, the satellites have gone on to exceed everyone’s most optimistic predictions, and they continue to produce the most amazing observations and data on the fundamental physics of the space between the Sun and Earth.

The rate of scientific publications from Cluster data has not significantly lowered over the years and in fact, with the launch of newer missions like NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission, the Van Allen Probes mission and Themis, or China’s Double Star, Cluster’s relevance has, if anything, only become more important.

From Cluster’s unique vantage point, it is possible today to do complementary science observations together with all these other missions, enriching the quality of the data, and the quality of results for all.

Innovation

If there is one feature that can define the Science Operations Workgroup of Cluster, it’s that they never felt complacent or happy to just do more of the same. Every extension of the mission up to now has been carefully planned to address new and exciting science targets. And from the mission operations side, all our efforts have been toward ensuring the success of those campaigns by carefully managing flight control challenges and optimising resources.

It seems almost paradoxical that the older the spacecraft, and the fewer the resources available to keep the mission flying, the more data are produced. In fact, 2018 was the year the mission produced the largest-ever volume of data with the least amount of ground-station tracking time, one of the unavoidable costs to flying any mission.

Orbital evolution – steady changes in the four satellites’ pathways around Earth – has been a major contribution to this, and with the apogee (the point in a satellite’s orbit when it is highest above Earth) at its lowest, we have benefitted from a favourable configuration. In addition, constant improvement of our weekly planning and scheduling coupled with innovative techniques like ‘Multiple Satellite per Aperture’ (allowing two or more satellites to be tracked simultaneously with the same ground station – we are the first mission to use it routinely at ESA), and better management of resources, has allowed for additional optimisation.

Middle-age aches and pains

From 2008 to 2012, the laws of physics and celestial mechanics dictated that the spacecraft were experiencing a nasty dip into the Van Allen belts, tyre-shaped belts of highly energetic electrons and protons that are trapped by Earth’s magnetic field. This caused solar array degradation, leading to power loss and, eventually, the on-board batteries failed and had to be permanently shut down. The loss of power meant that heating had to be sparse and the high-power amplifier had to be sacrificed, thus leading to an increase in the time required for downloading data.

In 2011, the spacecraft engineers faced an exhausting year with almost uninterrupted eclipses (when our satellites receive no sunlight so generate no power) every single orbit, requiring enormous effort to manage powering down and then switching on and reconfiguring everything back to full operational status. With all hands available doing shifts to cope with the workload, little time was left to implement improvements.

More innovation

But necessity is the mother of creativity and soon the engineers got around to automating many of these command-intensive tasks. Further, simplifications have meant that we have reduced the time required to recover the four spacecraft from four to one hour per spacecraft. Today, when everything goes smoothly, which is almost always, we can finish the task in two hours doing a pair of spacecraft at one time, needing just four or five mouse clicks.

The last seven years have seen Cluster change from a mission that had been fighting against adversity to survive, to a mission at the forefront of optimisation and automation of operations. This has been in great measure possible due to a team of well-practiced and smart engineers, who were already highly motivated to achieve that transformation, as a result of a culture and philosophy put in place by my predecessor, Jürgen Volpp.

With the advent of automation and the pressure to optimise resources, less manual work has led, over the years, to a reduction in the size of the team available to conduct real-time operations. From an initial pool of nine spacecraft controllers covering 24 hrs/day, year-round operations in the control room plus three analysts to cover our database management and mission-planning needs, we have gradually but systematically reduced to four spacecraft controllers and no analysts, with part of the work simplified, automated or shared among the also-trimmed pool of spacecraft operations engineers, which now totals six, including the Spacecraft Operations Manager.

With the reduction in staffing, we improved shift and station planning to optimise the collocation of controllers and ground contacts. We’ve also extended automation to allow for ‘hands-off’ operations when no staffing of the consoles was possible. Automation has also been progressively built-in to some of our recurrent anomaly alerts, whose signature we can identify, and therefore provide a systematic and timely reaction.

The original Clusterweb timeline still heavily in use to support station planning Credit: ESA

Tools, tools

Clusterweb has been one of the tools emerging from the creativity and skills of the Cluster team that has helped to dramatically improve planning and fleet supervision. It began its evolution in 2009.

In 2016, the team opted for a full-scale re-engineering of the tool, resulting in a new, modern and highly configurable timeline plotting engine, now called OPSWEB, currently in use by five other teams.

Operations teams have always prototyped any small tools they needed. What makes this development stand out is the scale and scope of development achieved. It wasn’t just another tool done in Excel or Java by a trainee; instead, a professional approach was used, making full use of Scrum, a cutting-edge design technique, combined with enlarging the development team through small voluntary contributions across the organisation (at its peak, seven people were working on it simultaneously) and supported by a state-of-the-art development and integration environment, a flexible and modular architecture and a modern technology stack. The result thus far achieved, is, by all standards, remarkable and on par with the best to be found in industry.

The new OPSWEB timeline engine as configured for Cluster Credit: ESA

Incubating expertise

Engineers who have worked with Cluster operations, either because they have had to deal with the complex eclipse operations or because they have had to help sort out the radiation- and age-related equipment glitches, have traditionally become very comfortable dealing directly with the spacecraft, and have evoled into experts who tackle problems in an autonomous and responsible way. They have also become very pro-active in improving the overall operations setup, whether by improving flight procedures, automation scripts or deploying new tools.

This has meant that, over the years, Cluster operations alumni have found their way into the newest and most complex missions flown by ESA at the ESOC mission control centre, like Bepi, ExoMars and Juice. Several have also found their way into key positions at Eumetsat and in new space companies.

Cluster has become a ‘school for operations’ at ESOC, and managing the turnover of the team and the propagation of the needed skills, experience and mind-set has been a tremendous challenge. At the same time, we continue striving to produce ever bigger and more complete sets of science data.

It is, therefore, perhaps no big wonder that earlier this month, the UK’s Royal Astronomical Society, when honouring the extraordinary scientific output of this mission, also emphasised the role of operations in the society’s recent announcement of the 2019 Group Achievement Award to the Cluster mission.

A mission that not so long ago was at risk of being discontinued has instead continued shining as a backbone data provider for the geophysics community and a role model for effective and efficient mission operations.

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In 2004, a year after Europe’s first mission to Mars was launched, the flight dynamics team at ESA’s operations centre encountered a serious problem. New computer models showed a worrying fate for the Mars Express spacecraft if mission controllers continued with their plans to deploy its giant MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding) radar.

Artist’s impression of Mars Express. Credit: Spacecraft image credit: ESA/ATG medialab; Mars: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

MARSIS main antenna. Credit: Universität der Bundeswehr – München

This extremely sensitive radar instrument spans 40 metres across once fully extended, making it longer than a Space Shuttle orbiter and was built with the direct intention of finding water beneath Mars’ surface. By sending out a series of chips between 1.8 and 5.0 Mhz in ‘subsurface’ mode would scour the red planet for any signs of water anywhere down to a depth of a few kilometres. A secondary ‘ionosphere’ mode at 0.1 to 5.4 Mhz surveyed the electrical conductivity of the Martian upper atmosphere.

Two ‘radar booms’, 20-metre long hollow cylinders, 2.5 centimetres in diameter, and one 7-metre boom, were folded up in a box like a concertina. Once the box was opened, all of the stored elastic energy from the glass fibre booms would be released, a little like a jack-in-the-box, and they would lock into a straight line.

New and updated computer models, however, showed that these long rods would swing back and forth upon release with an even greater amplitude than previously thought, potentially coming into close contact with the delicate parts of the Mars Express body.

Deployment was postponed

Artist’s impression of MARSIS Boom 1 deployed. Credit: ESA

Plans were made to get the spacecraft in a ‘robust’ mode before the deployment of each boom and while the glass fibre cylinders were extended. After each deployment the control team would conduct a full assessment of the spacecraft, taking up to a few days, before moving onto the next phase.

The first deployment began on 4 May 2005 with one of the two 20-metre ‘dipole’ booms, and flight controllers at ESA’s operations centre quickly realised something wasn’t quite right. 12 out of 13 of the boom segments had ‘snapped’ into place, but one, possibly number 10, was not in position.

Deployment of the second and third booms was postponed

Further analysis showed that prolonged storage in the cold conditions of outer space had affected the fibreglass and Kevlar material of the boom. What could be done to heat it up?

MARSIS boom 2 deployment begins. Credit: ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.

Enter: the Sun. Mission teams decided to swing the 680 kg spacecraft to a position that would allow the Sun to heat the cold side of the boom. It was hoped that as the cold side expanded in the heat, the unlocked segment would be forced into place.

One hour later, as contact was reestablished at 04:50 CET on 11 May, detailed analysis showed all segments had successfully locked in place and Boom 1 was successfully deployed!

Following the rollercoaster rollout of the first antenna, flight controllers spent some time mulling over the events. A full investigation ensued, lessons were learnt, and plans were put in place to prevent the same irregularity from taking place in the next two deployments.

By 14 June 2005, operators felt confident that they, and Mars Express, were ready to deploy the second boom. At 13:30 CEST the commands were sent.

This time, Mars Express was set into a slow rotation to last 30 minutes during and after the release of the second 20-metre boom. The rotation was planned so that all of the boom’s hinges would be properly heated by the Sun before, during, and after deployment.

MARSIS fully deployed. Credit: ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Just three hours later and the first signs of success reached ground control, showing that Mars Express had properly re-oriented itself and was pointing towards Earth, transmitting data.

The data confirmed that the spacecraft was working with two fully and correctly deployed booms, and their deployment had not caused any damage to the spacecraft.

Not long after, the third boom was deployed, and the full MARSIS setup was complete on Mars Express.

Let the science begin

Just four months later, and ESA was reporting on the radar’s activities. MARSIS radar scientists were collecting data about a highly electrically conducting layer – surveyed in sunlight. They were also continuing the laborious analysis of data in the search for any possible signs of underground water, in a frozen or liquid state.

MARSIS prospecting for water. Credit: ESA

Radar science is based on the detection of radio waves, reflected at the boundaries between different materials. Each material interacts with light in a different way, so as the radio wave crosses the boundary between different layers of material, an echo is generated that carries a sort of ‘fingerprint’, providing information about the kind of material causing the reflection, including clues to its composition and physical state.

The Red Planet

Like Earth, Mars has two ice caps covering its poles, and early attempts to measure the composition of these regions suggested the northern cap could be composed of water ice, while the southern cap is made up of carbon dioxide ice.

Map of the south pole at Mars, derived from OMEGA infrared spectral images. Credit: ESA/OMEGA.

Later observations by the OMEGA instrument on board Mars Express suggested the southern cap was in fact composed of a mixture of carbon dioxide and water. However, it was only with the arrival of Mars Express that scientists were able to obtain direct confirmation for the first time that water ice is present at the south pole.

MARSIS, the first radar sounder ever sent to orbit another planet, revealed that both polar ice caps are up to 3.5 km thick, each with a core of water ice that is covered by a layer of carbon dioxide ice, centimetres to decimetres thick.

A remarkable discovery

Mars Express detects water buried under the south pole of Mars. Credit: Context map: NASA/Viking; THEMIS background: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University; MARSIS data: ESA/NASA/JPL/ASI/Univ. Rome; R. Orosei et al 2018

On 25 July 2018, fifteen years after its launch, it was confirmed that data from years of Mars Express’ observations were telling us something remarkable. Hidden beneath Mars’ south pole is a pond of liquid water, buried under layers of ice and dust.

The presence of liquid water at the base of the polar ice caps had long been suspected, but until now evidence from MARSIS had remained inconclusive. It has taken the persistence of scientists working with this subsurface-probing instrument over years, developing new techniques in order to collect as much high-resolution data as possible to confirm such an exciting conclusion.

Kasei Valles mosaic. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum), CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Liquid water cannot survive on the surface of Mars, as the low atmospheric pressure causes it to evaporate in a matter of hours. But this has not always been the case. Evidence for the Red Planet’s watery past is prevalent across its surface in the form of vast dried-out river valley networks and gigantic outflow channels clearly imaged by orbiting spacecraft. Orbiters, together with landers and rovers exploring the martian surface, also discovered minerals that can only form in the presence of liquid water.

Over the course of the Red Planet’s 4.6 billion year history, its climate has vastly changed, meaning scientists today have to look for water underground. We now know for certain that under its surface Mars harbours ancient masses of liquid water.

Mars’ northern polar ice cap. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Kept in a liquid state by the vast pressures from glaciers above, it is thought that this water is also a briny solution. The presence of salts on Mars could further reduce the melting point of water, keeping it liquid even at below-freezing temperatures.

Dmitri Titov, ESA’s Mars Express project scientist: “This thrilling discovery is a highlight for planetary science and will contribute to our understanding of the evolution of Mars, the history of water on our neighbour planet and its habitability.”

So congratulations to everyone involved in this incredible discovery, and thank you to the flight controllers at ESA’s operations centre in Darmstadt whose dedication and ingenuity 14 years ago made possible what we know today.

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The Moon is as old as the Earth, at about 4.5 billion years of age. For as long as there have been creatures on Earth able to observe it, the Moon has been there to be seen.

The dimpled Moon. Credit: ESA/Silicon Worlds/Daniele Gasparri

Detlef during a Desert RATS ‘spacewalk’, 2011. Credit: ESA/W. Carey

In 450 BC the ancient Greek philosopher Anaxagoras realised that the Moon does not shine with its own light, instead bathing in the reflected glory of the radiant Sun. As early as 150 BC, the Greek philosopher ‘Seleucus of Seleucia’ considered the Moon to be the cause of tides on Earth.Today, we have landed on the Moon, leaving footprints, a feather from the famous “hammer-feather drop” experiment, even a cast golden olive branch lies amongst the countless other worldly possessions still orbiting Earth. More importantly we even brought lunar samples back home to study and explore. So, what more is there to know?

For a thousand years people have described witnessing mysterious, fleeting phenomena across the face of the Moon, and once we had the tools to observe its surface, we saw evidence of a history of high-energy bombardment in the countless craters and shock waves that blanket it.

It was only in 1997 that the first systematic attempts were made to identify impact flashes, and today ESA is one of a few organisations continuing to study these ‘transient lunar phenomena’.

We spoke to Detlef Koschny, ESA planetary scientist and co-manager of the near-Earth object section of ESA’s Space Situational Awareness programme, who is currently studying these impacts, finding out about the bits of space that keep smashing into our Moon…  

Q: First of all, what is a lunar ‘impact flash’, and why are you interested?

Two lunar flashes light up darkened Moon, 17 – 18 July, 2018. Credit: J. Madiedo / MIDAS

There are many small, but fascinating and ancient pieces of material travelling at high speed through space, and I am interested in the smallest of them.  My main research interest is cosmic dust, meteors, fireballs, and other minor bodies in the Solar System — particularly asteroids!

When a small asteroid or meteoroid hits the Moon, part of the energy is converted to light — and this is what we see as an ‘impact flash‘.

Q: How are you involved in studying these fleeting flashes?

Rosetta’s view of the Moon, 2007. Credit: ESA

I am involved in two projects whose main focus is lunar micrometeoroid impacts. NEOLITA was launched by ESA at at the National Observatory of Athens in February, 2015. It aims to determine the distribution and frequency of small near-earth objects (NEOs) by monitoring lunar impact flashes, using the 1.2m Kryoneri telescope located in the Northern Peloponnese, in Greece.

Like all other impact flash monitoring programmes, NEOLITA only observes impact flashes only on the dark side of the Moon — note that the dark side is entirely different to the far side!

Unlike the ‘far side’ of the Moon which always faces away from Earth (and has a slightly different surface) the dark side refers to any part of the Moon that is not currently illuminated by the Sun, although — such as during a crescent Moon — it may still be facing Earth.

Then there is LUMIO — the Lunar Meteoroid Impact Observer. ESA set a challenge last year (2017) — “Imagine sending a spacecraft the size of an airline cabin bag to the Moon – what would you have it do?” and LUMIO was one of the two successful answers!

The largest lunar flash ever recorded, September 2013. Credit: J. Madiedo / MIDAS

The plan is that LUMIO would circle over the far side of the Moon to detect bright impact flashes during the lunar night, mapping meteoroid bombardments as they occur!

Q: How common are they, and what can they tell us?

NELIOTA sees one flash on average every 2-3 hours of continuous observation time, so from that we can calculate that there are really are several per day.

The light flash lets us estimate the size and velocity of the object that hit it, and from this we can better understand how many of these objects hit the Moon, and how often. This is of particular interest to future astronauts that spend any time on the Moon! But this information also helps us understand the general environment that Earth and the Moon find themselves in — with some scaling factors to account for the different gravity of the two bodies, we can use the lunar data as a proxy for impacts into Earth’s atmosphere.

Differences between the near and far sides of the Moon. Credit: ESA

Q: How do impacts on the Moon differ from those on Earth?

Earth’s atmosphere protects us from objects smaller than about 20 metres, so to get impact craters on our surface we need even bigger asteroids that can survive, intact, before they reach the ground. On the Moon everything reaches the ground, because it doesn’t have an atmosphere. This means that we get ‘hypervelocity’ impact craters even from very small objects that impact it.

Q. Why are impacts on the dark side of the Moon important to study? Are they any different?

Impacts are the same everywhere on the Moon, but it is much easier to see the flash of light they cause if they occur on the dark, rather than illuminated, side. This is for the same reason that we can only see faint stars only at night and not during day — the contrast is just not high enough.

Q: Will the July 2018 eclipse provide any useful insights into lunar impacts?

2015 Super Moon eclipse. Credit: ESA/CESAR

Normally we don’t observe during the Full Moon, because the complete side facing us is illuminated and is too bright. In principle it would be possible to search for impact flashes during the eclipse, as the Moon is in the shadow of the Earth — statistically speaking we may see one impact during the eclipse!

2015 Super Moon eclipse. Credit: ESA/CESAR

As for special results — some people measure the redness or darkness of the eclipse to deduce something about Earth’s atmosphere. The reason why the eclipsed Moon is red is because while in principle it is in the shadow of the Earth, the red sunlight still manages to pass through Earth’s atmosphere and is indirectly scattered onto the Moon. So, by looking at the intensity of the red Moon we could deduce something about our atmosphere. But as for our work on lunar flashes, eclipses don’t really give new science results — but are something beautiful to enjoy.

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For those in the right position, July 2018 is proving to be a particularly pleasing month for gazing heavenwards. On Thursday 27, the longest total lunar eclipse of the 21st century will take place. For 1 hour and 43 minutes our nearest neighbour will be totally shrouded in Earth’s shadow, appearing to turn a spectacular red-brown colour.

But July has even more to offer, because this month Mars will be brighter in the sky than at any point since 2003, as it passes relatively near Earth at ‘just’ 57.6 million km away.

And as these two unique events take place, the International Space Station (ISS) continues to orbit Earth — capturing spectacular images, carrying out vital research, and appearing periodically above us in the skies.

To celebrate, ESA has a challenge:

Mars and the Moon from the @Space_Station by @Astro_Alex.
Challenge: can you take all three – #Mars, #Moon, Space Station – in one picture? Bonus points if you include the lunar eclipse.
Reply to this tweet with (a link to) your picture!
More info: https://t.co/e8AdxQtmtF pic.twitter.com/KpPc9hQyLJ

— Human Spaceflight (@esaspaceflight) July 17, 2018

So, how likely is it to capture the Moon, Mars and an ISS transit in one picture over the coming week?

We asked Miguel Perez Ayucar, leader of Rosetta Science Operations and of the Planning Group at the European Space Astronomy Centre

“Mars and the Moon will be quite close together in the sky in the next days (see graph below), so they are an easy target for cameras. On the night of the 27th, they will reach their closest separation at an angular distance less than 10 degrees. But note, Mars and the Moon are still several moon diameters apart, so any image with both targets in the same frame will not contain much detail on Mars, which will appear as a beautiful, reddish, big dot.

The International Space Station passes over the same longitude roughly every 1.5 hours, and it is always possible to get a picture during its orbit from somewhere on Earth. Where it will appear, and when that will be on Earth? That is more tricky…

The ideal conditions happen after dusk or before dawn, when the ISS is still in sunlight (not in Earth’s shadow cone). The ideal locations therefore are regions close to the ‘dawn-dusk terminator’. And of course the ISS has to fly over your head at that moment.

To be able to capture the ISS, Moon and Mars in a single shot, they should be close in the sky (to be able to use normal camera lenses, not a fisheye). The closer they are the better, to adjust your zoom and get better resolution of the Moon’s surface (mainly) and Mars’ disk. For the night of the 27th, Mars and the Moon will be beautifully visible in the early night sky, to the South – South-East. For observers in Europe, to get all three objects in the same sky region means that your observing latitude must be higher than the ISS ground track, but not so far North that you have a dark night sky.

The 27th July blood Moon eclipse takes place between 19:30 to 21:13 UTC (the total eclipse in umbra crossing), and luckily the ISS is predicted to pass over Europe during this period…

The ISS passes over Europe on 27th July 2018 around moon eclipse. Image from www.isstracker.com

For certain parts of southern Europe, such as Spain, Italy and Central Europe, and for ESAC, in Madrid (image below), the ISS will only cross the night sky at low elevations in the northern sky, so opposite the Moon and Mars. In central Europe the pass is still overhead, such as for ESTEC in The Netherlands (image below), so it will be difficult to have them in the same picture.

The ISS sky chart for 27th July 2018, pass around 21:30 UTC. Location, ESAC, Madrid. Credit: heavens-above free software (heavens-above.com)

The ISS sky chart for 27th July 2018, pass around 21:30 UTC. Location, ESTEC, The Netherlands. Credit: heavens-above free software (heavens-above.com)

As we move to northern parts of Europe, the three objects are together closer in the sky. For example in Inverness, at 23:10 UTC, it should be possible to capture them with less than 30 degrees of angular separation. Of course at this point Mars and the Moon will still be very low on the horizon so the observer should check the horizon mask to avoid obstructions and preferably be in high grounds.

The ISS sky chart for 27th July 2018, pass around 23:10 UTC. Location Inverness, Scotland. Credit: heavens-above free software (heavens-above.com)

A similar geometry is achieved from Riga, Latvia, at 21:33, just after the total umbra and still in the penumbra phase of the eclipse.

The ISS sky chart for 27th July 2018, pass around 21:30 UTC. Location Riga, Latvia. Image from heavens-above free software (heavens-above.com)

So it is possible the see all of them in the same picture, even during the eclipse phase. You might even get Saturn in it, as well!” The night sky is just beautiful at this moment. Except Mercury, all the brightest planets are visible together after dusk: (from West to East) Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. One can easily draw the ecliptic line by moving your arm from one to the other!”

The bright planets as seen on 27th July 2018. Location ESAC, Madrid. Image from Stellarium free software (stellarium.org)

We would love to see any pictures taken showing the Moon, Mars and the International Space Station in one shot – even better if you manage to get all three during the lunar eclipse. Send your images to ESA’s social media channels, as a Facebook message to ESA, with hashtag #youresa on Instagram, or as a reply to the pinned tweet on @esaspaceflight. Provide as much background to how you took the picture as you can. The best three entries will be eligible to win exclusive prizes.

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CryoSat. Credit: ESA/P. Carril

On Monday 9 July, 2018, engineers based at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Germany made the decision to alter the path of the CryoSat satellite, preventing a potentially fatal collision between it and an ‘unknown object’. For the second time this year the risk of collision was deemed high enough to give the satellite instructions to get out of the way.

CryoSat is ESA’s mission dedicated to measuring the thickness of polar sea ice and monitoring changes in the ice sheets blanketing Greenland and Antarctica. Flying at an altitude of just over 700 km and travelling from pole to pole, Cryosat keeps us informed about an often cited ‘early casualty’ of global warming, Earth’s ice.

The first warning of trouble came about a week before the event from the Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) in the US, informing ESA’s Space Debris Office that a potential collision was on the horizon.

Time of close approach: Monday 9 July, 04:24 UTC.

3D collision plot. Credit: Spacecraft Conjunction Assessment and Risk Front-end (SCARF)

“We received the first CDM (Conjunction Data Message) from JSpOC on 2 July 2018 at 08:02 UTC. At this point the chance of collision was still below our threshold of 1 in 10 000. By 5 July 2018, 23:00 UTC, the probability had climbed above the threshold and we informed the mission the next morning.” describes Vitali Braun, Space Debris Engineer at ESA’s Space Debris Office.

“It is a somewhat different feeling than usual work, but there’s only a small amount of stress or concern. The teams involved know exactly what to do and everyone is very professional.”

CryoSat operations team waiting for updates from the satellite at the Earth Observation Control Room at ESOC

So the warning was passed from the Space Debris office to the team operating CryoSat at the Earth Observation Mission Control Room.

Giuseppe Albini, CryoSat Spacecraft Operations Engineer recounts: “The object was approaching from behind and below CryoSat, and even though its orbit is monitored and tracked, its origin is unknown. We had one lunchtime meeting with the Space Debris Office, Flight Dynamics, the Flight Control Team and the Mission Manager, Tommaso Parrinello. Considering the collision probability exceeded 1/10000, we decided to prepare the manoeuvre, and as this was happening over the weekend, cancel our plans!”

Getting CryoSat to safety

On Sunday the commands were sent to CryoSat, on Monday, 50 minutes before the potential collision, its thrusters fired, and because of the swift action of many experienced and dedicated teams the chance of collision dropped from 1 in 10 000 to 1 in 1 000 000.

By firing its thrusters CryoSat increased its speed, and in so doing increased its ‘orbital energy’, pushing it into a higher orbit around the Earth. Instead of a distance of 14-metres between the two objects at their closest point, CryoSat passed more than 120-metres above the unknown object, or ‘chaser’.

Chasers might be operational satellites, dead satellites, spent rocket parts, mission-related debris e.g. lens covers, payload adapters, and the most common source, explosion and collision fragments.

Back to work

CryoSat. Credit: ESA/AOES

After it was confirmed that CryoSat had successfully avoided collision, the operations team began preparations to get it back into an orbit that would allow it to continue its vital work.

“The collision avoidance manoeuvre performed early on Monday raised the orbit of CryoSat outside the optimal altitude. We are currently preparing the commands that will implement a second manoeuvre, ensuring CryoSat is able to satisfy its scientific mission in the weeks to come,” explained Elia Maestroni, CryoSat-2 Spacecraft Operations Manager.

With these commands CryoSat again fired its thrusters, but this time in the opposite direction, slowing it down by 3.043 cm/s and so lowering its orbit.

By Thursday, CryoSat was back at work.

The problem of junk

Artist’s impression of space debris around Earth. Credit: ESA/ID&Sense/ONiRiXEL, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

None of this would have been possible without the dedication and experience of the teams involved, but an event like this still comes at some cost. Every time CryoSat fires its thrusters it uses some of its fuel, ultimately shortening the length of its mission.

This is CryoSat’s second Collision Avoidance Manoeuvre of 2018 and the 14th since it launched in 2000, and according to Vitali Braun, events like this are becoming more common:

“about 50% of all alerts and Collision Avoidance Manoeuvres at ESOC are due to fragments left over from two particular events: the anti-satellite test conducted by the Chinese military in 2007, which destroyed the former weather satellite Fengyun-1C and left a huge debris cloud behind, and the collision of two intact spacecraft, Iridium-33 and Cosmos-2251, in 2009. One could say that we have doubled the amount of chaser objects since 2007 and thus also the frequency of manoeuvres like this. This only applies however to our satellites in Low Earth Orbit, like the Sentinels, CryoSat and Swarm.”

By the end of 2017, 19 894 bits of space junk were known to be circling our planet with a combined mass of 8000 tones, and unfortunately these numbers are increasing.The goal now is to remove debris from space, at the same time as preventing any more getting there in the first place. ESA has taken a leading role in this mission, with the creation of the Space Debris Office, which comes under its Space Situational Awareness Programme, and the Clean Space initiative.

For more information on the problem of debris, check out ESA’s 2017 report on space junk.

Space debris GIF. Credit: ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

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ESA | Rocket Science by Daniel - 1y ago

Salma Fahmy, team member on the Solar Orbiter Project Office at ESTEC Credit: ESA/D. Lakey

ESA’s Solar Orbiter team have been busy for the last few months preparing for the first ‘Spacecraft Validation Test’ – referred to in engineering-speak as ‘SVT-0’ – which is the first opportunity the mission control team to establish a data link to the actual flight hardware and send commands to the spacecraft.

The mission controllers are working at ESA’s ESOC control centre in Darmstadt this week, joined by representatives from the mission’s two instrument teams, the ESA Project Team based at ESTEC in the Netherlands and the AirbusDS-UK industrial team. The spacecraft itself is located in Stevenage, UK.

Jose-Luis Pellon-Bailon & Matthias Eiblmaier Credit: ESA/D. Lakey

Yesterday and today, the team will validate flight control procedures and the database that describes the commands and telemetry of the spacecraft. It’s a lot of work but at the end of it, a real milestone will have been passed.

Spacecraft Operations Engineer Daniel Lakey explains, “This is the culmination of months of work by us, our colleagues across ESA and, of course, the teams at AirbusDS-UK, who are leading the build of the spacecraft and are supporting these test connections from the cleanroom in Stevenage.”

“We have a list of over 250 procedures that we will methodically go through, to ensure they are ready for flight. This first contact with the real spacecraft is an exciting step after having spent years working on paper!”

More tests are planned over the coming months, and next year.

#Solo

#ESOC

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An aerial view of ESTEC from this year. Credit: ESA

The International Space University’s Space Studies Program will officially open today at ESA in the Netherlands. The nine-week programme will see more than 130 participants representing 37 nationalities take part in lectures, workshops and team projects to gain an interdisciplinary understanding of all aspects of the space industry.

This year’s ISU programme is co-hosted by the Technical University Delft and the Netherlands Space Office, in close cooperation with ESA and Leiden University.

Two groups of participants will focus in particular on issues of space safety and sustainability as they prepare project reports on the role space should play in human adaptation to global climate change and on new ideas for the removal of space debris from Earth orbit using ecologically sound technology.

Looking ahead to sustainable innovation

Omar Hatamleh Credit: ISU/NitzanZohar

“Working with young professionals reminds us all of the need to keep space sustainable for the generations to come,” says Omar Hatamleh, ISU’s Director of the Space Studies Program. “We look ahead to a future of great innovation and technology, but we also realise the importance of making those great advances available to everyone and to make them sustainable over the long term.”

The space debris project will examine some of the proposals by space agencies and commercial companies that include the deorbiting of defunct satellites, moving them to safer orbits or salvaging them for reuse on other satellites or spacecraft, before composing a plan for an original mission. The participants at ISU come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences and will be encouraged to bring new approaches to the problem.

Rüdiger Jehn Credit: ESA/Euronews

“I’m looking forward to seeing exciting new ideas from the participants in the project,” says team project co-chair Rüdiger Jehn, who is also Co-Manager for Near-Earth Objects within ESA’s Space Situational Awareness Programme.

“We need to guarantee the long-term safety and security of space operations, so that all of the generations to come can benefit from knowledge we gain from space data. Developing awareness of the issue and good ideas for addressing it is really important for everyone with an interest in space.”

Looking at key risks of climate change

The host nation of the Netherlands has a particular interest in another of the team projects, as it looks at two key risks of climate change – flooding and diminished air quality. Lying at or below sea level, the Dutch interest in flood mitigation is clear, while scientists from the Netherlands were also key in developing the Tropomi instrument measuring air quality on board the Sentinel 5P satellite launched last year.

“We welcome participants from many countries to their summer of space in the Netherlands this year,” says Erik Laan, co-chair of the team project on adaptation from space for climate change. “We are interested in understanding how climate change affects different environments and ecosystems, and how our knowledge from space can help us all to minimise the impacts of a changing climate for people on the ground. This international group will allow us to explore new ideas for what will be our common future.”

The opening ceremony of the Space Studies Program will be attended by HM the King of the Netherlands and addressed by ESA Director General Jan Wörner. The ceremony is available to view on ISU’s YouTube channel.

Today’s post contributed by Ruth McAvinia. Ruth is an ATG-Europe editor for ESA and a member of the global faculty of ISU.

More info

ISU SSP in Facebook

Tweets by ISU_SSP

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A special youth and space panel will be held at UNISPACE+50 in Vienna on 19 June, including astronaut Scott Kelly, the UN’s ‘Champion for Space’. The panel will provide a forum to discuss technical advancements and findings in space and new opportunities for society, focussing, as the title implies, on young people!

We asked several young Europeans (and a Canadian!) working at ESA for their perspective on the future and what they hope to see in coming years.

Aybike Demirsan
Hometown: Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Work: Young Graduate Trainee at ESA working on software for the Cluster mission 

Aybike Demirsan

Two years ago, I entered ESA’s Young Graduate Trainee programme with a position at the Agency’s ESOC mission control centre in Darmstadt, Germany. I am working on the Cluster mission, comprising four structurally identical spacecraft that fly in formation to measure the solar wind’s effects on Earth’s magnetosphere.

My job, thanks to my background in computer science, is to reengineer the mission’s monitoring tool, so that it would be easier for the flight control team to monitor the upcoming contacts between our spacecraft and the ground stations. The tool employs a simple visual timeline, with many more functionalities than before, to make our lives as spacecraft operations engineers and spacecraft controllers easier.

I also received training on every subsystem of the spacecraft and learned how to operate spacecraft and how to deal with anomalies, which has been a great journey.

However, it’s not only what we do that fascinates me, but also the way we do it. Never before have I worked with such a diverse crowd of people, and as well I have never before worked in such a peaceful, nourishing environment where knowledge is shared, help is always offered and there is belief and trust in others and yourself to do your job with your best effort. For space in the future, I think youth today can look forward to worldwide collaboration and to overcoming artificial human-created borders!

Artur Scholz
Hometown: Erlangen, Germany
Work: Spacecraft Operations Engineer at ESA working on the Cluster and JUICE missions 

Artur Scholz

For space in future, youth today should most look forward to work together openly, with a focus on sharing and collaboration.

The spirit of open source, which comes from the software world, should be applied to all areas of space exploration – because what we need to truly advance access to space is to allow everyone to get involved!

Dr Francesca Letizia
Hometown: Cagliari, Italy
Work: Space Debris Engineer at ESA working on assessing compliance with space debris mitigation guidelines

Francesca Letizia

There are three main aspects of future space activities that I find exciting. The first one is related to exploration: In the upcoming years, we will witness increasing efforts to send astronauts to Mars and, in general, beyond low Earth orbit. Several projects – like the Lunar Orbiing Platform – Gateway and Moon Village – are evaluating extended human presence in orbits much more distant from Earth than the current International Space Station. These initiatives could contribute to a deeper understanding of the limits of the human body (and mind) in space and how to handle these.

Another interesting field is the development of planet-hunter missions, such as NASA’s Kepler spacecraft now in orbit and the planned ESA Plato and Cheops missions. The goal of these spacecraft is to find planets outside our Solar System and, in particular, to identify planets with a habitable environment. The findings of these missions are incredibly fascinating as they shed light on where life could have developed outside of Earth.

Finally, in the future, space will be more and more an enabler of new technology and applications. This is already happening right now with navigation services such as GPS and could be even more exploited and integrated thanks to the improved accuracy offered by Galileo. Other opportunities are offered by the processing of satellite images in fields such as agriculture or monitoring of land and water use.

Adam Vigneron
Hometown: Wilcox, Saskatchewan, Canada
Work: Navigation Engineer, on contract from Telespazio VEGA Deutschland, at ESA’s Navigation Support Office

Adam Vigneron Credit: J. Martin

My work in the Navigation Support Office has given me a profound example of the way in which space technology is an integral part of our everyday life. The work I do now inspires me to dream of a future where the line between space and daily life continues to blur…

For fifty years, uncrewed spaceflight has been a one-way trip. Two related mission families, active debris removal (ADR) and on-orbit servicing (OOS), are looking to turn this trip on its head. Briefly, ADR involves the removal of dead satellites from useful orbits, while OOS includes the refuelling and repairing of satellites already in orbit.

After numerous stops and starts, rumblings are happening in all the right places. Technology demonstrations of advanced robotics are ongoing on the International Space Station, proving technologies for fuel transfer and battery replacement. It looks as though the world’s first ADR mission, e.Deorbit, will gain attention at next year’s ESA Ministerial Council. Discussions continue at UNCOPUOS, the UN body which allows countries to agree on standards and norms for the peaceful use of outer space. Industrial players around the world are jockeying for position as this market emerges. All the while, valuable orbits in LEO and GEO are slowly but steadily filling up with active satellites and debris alike.

ADR/OOS promise an economically viable revolution in space activities to which today’s globally-minded, engaged youth are well-suited. There is a lot of work to be done, but with determination, we can make these missions come to life and change the way we look at space itself by making in-space repair as everyday ordinary as satellite navigation is today.

Editor’s note

Find out more about the misisons and activities mentioned above:

Cluster mission operations

JUICE mission

Space Debris Office

Navigation Support Office

e.Deorbit/Active debris removal

On-orbit servicing

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